By Jeff T. Wattrick | MLive.com
As he was released from jail yesterday, billionaire trucking magnate and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun told reporters that he loves our country.
Hey, that’s swell.
Nothing says America quite like baseball, mom, apple pie, and a good old-fashioned contempt of court appeal.
But then Moroun said something else: “There’s not a country like ours in the world. We better fight hard for it.”
Wait a second. Who are we fighting on behalf of America?
It takes a special kind of hubris for a man to cast himself as a martyr for liberty as he’s sprung from the clink in advance of an appeal.
In fact, break down the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project legal dispute, and what you find is the American system of jurisprudence not under threat, but working quite well.
MDOT and Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company entered into an agreement to jointly undertake the $230 million Gateway Project. Later, the parties disputed the scope of that project.
At this point, we find a spectacle of American justice that would have made John Marshall weep tears of joy.
In the court of an independent judiciary, lawyers for both parties made arguments, presented facts, questioned witnesses, cited statutes and precedents, and then a judge made a ruling.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards determined the facts and the law were on MDOT’s side. That was in February 2010, and we can say objectively that it was a fair and just decision.
Why can we say that? Because DIBC and the Morouns, with all the resources before them, aren’t appealing Edwards’ initial decision.
They’re simply ignoring it. It’s been 23 months since Edwards ruled the Gateway must be completed as MDOT says, and that hasn’t happened. Edwards has twice held DIBC in contempt for ignoring his order.
After Edwards determined, based on arguments from both MDOT and DIBC, that Matty Moroun has the “power and authority” to ensure the court’s order was followed, he jailed the man for contempt.
Based on Michigan law, specifically MCL 600.1715 paragraph 2, that is not an unreasonable ruling.
MCL via mi.gov: If the contempt consists of the omission to perform some act or duty that is still within the power of the person to perform, the imprisonment shall be terminated when the person performs the act or duty or no longer has the power to perform the act or duty, which shall be specified in the order of commitment, and pays the fine, costs, and expenses of the proceedings, which shall be specified in the order of commitment.
Moroun’s lawyers are arguing before the Court of Appeals, essentially, that Moroun doesn’t actually have the “power and authority” to comply with the court order.
While the lawyers assemble their case and present it to the court, the Appellate judges determined that it was in the interest of justice to allow Moroun to remain free.
What’s interesting is the Appeals Court didn’t stay the remainder of Edwards’ contempt ruling. No one is suggesting that DIBC isn’t legally obligated to finish the Gateway Project they signed up for. The Court simply wants to ensure that the man Edwards imprisoned actually has the “power and authority” to finish the thing.
That seems to be a reasonable decision as well. Moroun isn’t a threat to the public in the sense that he hunts men as the most dangerous game. The American system of jurisprudence holds that it’s better to let 10 guilty men go free than to wrongly imprison an innocent man. Justice is best served if Moroun sits at home until the Appeals Court sorts out the details.
One assumes the ACLU can expect a generous check from the suddenly patriotic Morouns for their tireless and thankless efforts to ensure the civil liberties of all Americans are protected.
The American system worked at every step, and that’s what makes Moroun’s “we better fight hard for [America]” shtick so obnoxious. This country, and the institutions that make it free and prosperous, are not threatened in any way by the Gateway rulings.
For most people, expressions of love of country are sincere gestures of gratitude to a nation that affords the blessings of liberty to so many. For Matty Moroun, as he exits the jail cell, it’s a cheap convention—patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel.